What is the cost of living in the Netherlands?

During the Dutch Summer School I meet people from all over the world who are thinking about moving to the Netherlands, or Amsterdam in particular. Besides the fact that they want to know what they should look at when moving (which I answered in this blog), it’s perfectly normal that they want to know what the cost of living is.

In this blog I will tell you about the cost of living in the Netherlands.

First, I want to say that this is a big question and I am aware that of course every situation is different. If you come here with a family with school age kids, your situation is definitely different from if you are a student. And also, the cost of living greatly depends on your lifestyle.

That being said, I will give an overview of the essential costs. I will start with the cost of accommodation in the Netherlands.

Housing – The cost of accommodation in the Netherlands

In general, there are two main options if you’re looking for a place to live: you can either buy or rent. Renting a house is probably your first choice. It brings less responsibilities and more flexibility. The disadvantage of renting is that you’re not in control of your situation. Also, there are landlords who don’t provide a good service and charge a high rent.

Besides this, there is a financial disadvantage. When renting a room, apartment or house you aren’t investing.

The cost of renting varies a lot. It can start with a small one bedroom apartment for €650 per month close to the centre of Utrecht to €1000 for a house in a non-urban area.

Option two: buying a house in the Netherlands. Buying a house in the Netherlands can be very complicated with a lot of documents, forms, etc. And as the owner of your house you are responsible for everything, for example property taxes and sewerage. If you’re not really experienced in this area, I would advise you to contact a real estate agency.

The main factor influencing the price of houses and apartments is location. The closer you are to the centre of a big city, the more you have to pay.

Housing – The cost of accommodation in Amsterdam

So location is key, and that’s why the Randstad (the urban area within the largest cities) is the most expensive place to live, and the leader here is the capital Amsterdam. Amsterdam is in the top 10 of the most expensive places to live in Europe. So it’s definitely not cheap.

Especially ‘binnnen de ring’ (the most central neighborhoods) prices could be double or triple compared with a place in, for example, Friesland or Limburg.

Food – The cost of eating and drinking in the Netherlands

Food in the supermarket is not expensive. Here it really depends on what you want. You have more expensive supermarkets like Ekoplaza and Marqt, and on the other hand Aldi and Lidl are known for being cheaper.

In every city or town there’s a market at least once a week. The food, drink and herbs here are usually not cheaper, but generally the quality is a bit better. Also, it’s easier to select the quantity that you want.

In general, restaurants in the Netherlands are not cheap. Of course, there’s a range so you can find a great diversity of restaurants. Compared to other Europeans, Dutch people are not frequent restaurant visitors – maybe because of the relatively high prices.

In the last couple of years, a wave of ‘all you can eat’ restaurants have come to the Netherlands. In these restaurants you pay for the time you spend there and not the food you eat.

So now I have looked at housing and food. Next question is: how do you get around? What are the costs of transport in the Netherlands?

Transport The cost of transport in the Netherlands

Public transport in the Netherlands is reasonably priced and well structured. You can use  your OV chip card on most transport including trains, trams, metros and buses.

Besides these usual modes of transport, a bike is essential. You can buy a fairly cheap secondhand bike, rent an OV-bike or go for an electric bike. Taxis on the other hand are pretty expensive.

School and university – The cost of education in the Netherlands

The tuition at state schools is free. Universities in the Netherlands start at around €1,950 per year for EU students. If you are planning to study in the Netherlands, the Dutch Immigration and Neutralization Service (IND) estimates students need a minimum of €10,412 a year to cover living expenses in the Netherlands plus health insurance.

International schools are more expensive and can easily cost up to €20,000 per year.

Health – The cost of health Insurance in the Netherlands

The Dutch health care insurance is probably different from the insurance you have in your country. Basic insurance is between €90 and €130 per month.  Depending on your situation, you can get a portion of this back with tax allowances.

Moving on to the last item on my list.

Smartphone – The cost of your phone in the Netherlands

The last essential thing is of course your phone. People from America are often surprised by the cheap phone bills they get here. For not more than €20 a month you can have a decent phone. This -of course- is not the case if you want the latest version of your phone with the best internet.

That’s the cost of living – What’s next?

I have covered the essentials of living in the Netherlands: housing, food, insurance, work and education. Of course there are more things in life but that all depends on how you live and what you want.

So maybe you have now decided to move to the Netherlands. In this case, don’t forget that the language is an important step in moving to the Netherlands! Read here why you should learn Dutch when moving to the Netherlands. 

Bart de Pau
online Dutch teacher & founder of the Dutch Summer School & Dutch Winter School